Crisis Communications and Network Analysis

A comment from my last post on Crisis Communications via Social Media prompted me to address network analysis. Katie Morse wrote in part, “The first step is knowing where your customers are online, and it’s often within that process that some companies start to realize the true scope of social media.”

Today, I want to simply consider where you might begin to look for consumers and media/influencers within the 96,000,000 active domains (according to Netcraft) on the Web.  To do so I’ve identified four general ‘types’ of social media wherein your audience will probably reside.

Social Networking Sites & Services
Wikipedia has a list of ‘major’ social networking sites/services. While there are a great many on this list, consider that any given one could host sites for many diverse  audiences, any of which could cater to your target audience. An example of this is Ning, which is a product that allows individuals to create their own social networks around topics of their choice. Similarly, LinkedIn has groups which provide individuals with opportunities to join many groups related to their professional interest and industry. I belong to five groups specific to pharmaceutical marketing and not including ones on social media marketing, medical device, and sports marketing.

Professional Associations & Organizations
Groups and organizations are adopting social technologies on a greater scale to host ‘private’ social network sites for their members. Recently I read a post by Emily Molitor on the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and its launch of cardiosource.org. The fundamental driver behind these initiatives is to improve member to member communication as an exclusive benefit of membership. Three years ago, even marketing professionals who were then getting involved in LinkedIn groups, weren’t quite ready for a full-blown private social networking site, at least in the pharmaceutical sector, but alot has changed since then and these types of sites are going to grow tremendously provided they offer something more than can be had from a public network.

Independent/Non-Sanctioned Industry Sites
While groups and organizations tend to be formal in structure and have rules in place, there are also independent or non-sanctioned industry sites that exist. Often these sites report on an industry and individuals can anonymously comment and contribute. An example Cafepharma, which is specifically for pharmaceutical sales reps. Through chat rooms, forums, and discussion boards these individuals share information with one another and report on one another. Cafepharma is similar to what you can do with a product like Ning.

Blogs
Bloggers create communities amongst their readers and encourage them to share their content on other social media sites. As a result these communities can’t be overlooked when determining where your audience may be online. Blogs may or may not fit into the broader categories above.

Audience
The above represent four very broad areas where your audience may reside. Since this network analysis discussion is related to Crisis Communications, you have to consider who your audience would be based on the type of crisis you might have to confront. This could include:

  1. Customers
  2. Prospects
  3. Traditional Media
  4. ‘New’ Media – non-journalist influencers
  5. Activists

You’ll have to consider the specifics of who in each of these groups you’ll need to target. These groups will have some connections online, but you can’t rely on the message being clearly connected to them. Instead you need to identify where and how best to reach each audience.

This is where knowing your audience is critical, and if you don’t know them well-enough, make a point of doing it before it is too late!

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